By Paul Gottinger
Reader Supported News (6/16/17)
On Thursday evening, 30 armed US Border Patrol agents, 15 trucks, 2 ATVs, and a helicopter were used to raid a humanitarian aid facility delivering medical treatment to refugees a few miles north of the Mexican border. Border Patrol operations ended in the arrest of four people receiving medical attention in temperatures that soared to 105° Fahrenheit.
The camp, which is run by the Unitarian Universalist organization No More Deaths, stated that the raid was “an unprecedented show of force” and follows a pattern of increased surveillance of their humanitarian aid work since the beginning of the Trump administration.
The raid also violated a longstanding agreement between No More Deaths and US Border Patrol.
Under the Obama administration, Border Patrol made an agreement to treat the camp near Arivaca, Arizona, as a medical facility and to refrain from arresting immigrants receiving medical attention.
Obstruction of humanitarian aid in deadly setting
The agreement also stated that Border Patrol officers had to be trained in the Red Cross Code of Conduct and respect the independent mission of humanitarian organizations.
In a written statement, No More Deaths declared, “Obstruction of humanitarian aid is an egregious abuse by the law enforcement agency, a clear violation of international humanitarian law and a violation of the organization’s written agreement with the Tucson Sector Border Patrol.”
Border Control agents chase and scatter border crossers across the deadly deserts of the Southwest to create a “vast graveyard of the missing.”
The intimidation and disruption of neutral humanitarian workers is typically a problem found in conflict zones and in countries with authoritarian governments. NGOs like the Red Cross have condemned foreign governments for attacks on health facilities abroad.
On Tuesday, Border Patrol agents began setting up checkpoints near their camp, conducting surveillance, and interrogating people leaving the camp about their citizenship status.
Border Patrol claims to have been tracking the individuals, but it waited until they arrived at the camp to arrest them.
A spokesman for No More Deaths told an Arizona paper the raid “feels like a direct and targeted attack on the humanitarian assistance we are providing during these hot and deadly days.”
Border Control claims to have “reached out” to No More Deaths to “resolve the situation,” but they deemed those attempts unsuccessful and then served a warrant to search the camp.
In its statement, Border Patrol implies that it asked No More Deaths to turn over a number of people to them but that they refused.
Reader Supported News contacted US Border Patrol to ask whether it’s now their policy to detain people seeking medical care at the No More Death camp, but a representative with Border Control didn’t provide an answer.
Government sponsored killing
It’s likely that many people traveling through the dangerous and remote desert near the aid camp had already avoided medical treatment for fear of deportation or incarceration in facilities that the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as inhumane.
The recent raid will likely scare even more people away from seeking treatment and very likely result in deaths. Since 1998, more than 7,000 people have died attempting to cross into the US, and 1,200 have gone missing just in the last year.
Eva Lewis, a volunteer at No More Deaths, told RSN, “Border Patrol tracked those they arrested yesterday for 18 miles before arresting them at our camp. They’re using No More Deaths camp as a trap.”
She continued, “The Border Patrol placed a sensor and camera just outside the camp. The Border Patrol needs to stand down and let us do our humanitarian work. As it stands, the camp is no longer a safe place for people to seek medical care.”
No More Deaths said, “The targeting of this critical medical aid is a shameful reflection of the current administration’s disregard for the lives of migrants and refugees, making an already dangerous journey even more deadly.”
No More Deaths released a report last year documenting how US Border Patrol uses the desert as a weapon to bring about the deaths and disappearances of thousands of migrants crossing into the US. The report says Border Control agents chase and scatter border crossers across the deadly deserts of the Southwest to create a “vast graveyard of the missing.”
(Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.)
Learn More About & Support ‘No More Deaths’ / ‘No Mas Muertes’
No More Deaths is a humanitarian organization based in southern Arizona. We began in 2004 in the form of a coalition of community and faith groups, dedicated to stepping up efforts to stop the deaths of migrants in the desert and to achieving the enactment of a set of Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform. We later developed into an autonomous project. Since 2008 we have been an official ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.
The mission of No More Deaths is to end death and suffering in the Mexico–US borderlands through civil initiative: people of conscience working openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights. Our work embraces the Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform and focuses on the following themes:
- Direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance
- Witnessing and responding
- Consciousness raising
- Global movement building
- Encouraging humane immigration policy
No More Deaths
PO Box 40782
Tucson, AZ 85717
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